Mar 14, 2018; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Marvin Bagley III (35) speaks to media during the practice day before the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

All signs point to the Sacramento Kings drafting Marvin Bagley III second overall on Thursday, and that decision involves more than Bagley’s skills as a ballplayer.

If teams drafted strictly on skill, Luka Doncic and Deandre Ayton would be the first two off the board. Ayton is all but guaranteed to go first overall to the Phoenix Suns, but Doncic could slip a little further if the Sacramento Kings are as sold on Marvin Bagley III as the reports make it seem.

Bagley should be the third player drafted on Thursday. However, Doncic is among the lottery picks who are doing everything in their power to sour their relationship with the Kings to avoid getting drafted there. And you can’t fault their choice to do so. Seeing the organization conduct themselves is the only justification necessary. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and Zach Lowe spoke about this on a recent podcast:

“Who even wants to go to Sacramento? Because a lot of the top guys in this draft are openly trying to avoid going there. Jaren Jackson, Mo Bamba, (Luka) Doncic — no medical for Sacramento. So, if they’re going to take one of these guys, they’re taking him blindly without knowing what is this person’s medical status going to be down the road.”

The Kings aren’t high on Doncic for reasons that go beyond his medical records. “All year, it’s not just [Kings coach Vlade Divac], but also his staff was very openly criticizing Luka, saying he’s not athletic enough. He’s too emotional. He’s not this. He’s not that,” explained Givony.

Doncic has flaws. His lack of athleticism is one of them. But no prospect is perfect. Bagley, Ayton, Jaren Jackson, Mohamed Bamba all lack in some area. You don’t need to tear down one player to build up the player whom you feel is better. Instead, talk about how the player you’re interested in better fits with your long-term plan. Of course, we can’t forget this vital fact: it’s the Sacramento Kings.

Sacramento is the most dysfunctional franchise in the NBA and arguably in the four major sports. The front office is a mess. The team is wallowing in the cellar of the Western Conference and has no idea what identity they want to form. De’Aaron Fox and Willie Cauley-Stein, drafted in 2017 and 2015, respectively, haven’t shown much during their short runs with the team. Fortunately, they’re still young. Fox, at this juncture, appears to be the team’s centerpiece. Given the breadth of talent in this year’s draft, whoever gets picked is projected to have a considerable workload going forward. The Kings have swung and missed on a handful of prospects over the years, and going with Bagley makes sense because of his combination of skill and willingness to play for the one franchise everyone is staying clear of.

“I love it here, just being around all the people I’ve seen so far and met so far, just walking around the city, it’s a cool environment to be in,” said Bagley not too long ago. “Not only that, on the court, I feel like it’s a place where I can definitely focus, lock in and get better. And that’s the main goal for me, to continue to grow as a player and get better.”

In his one year at Duke, Marvin Bagley dominated and averaged 21.0 points and 11.1 rebounds. He was the ACC’s Player of the Year, a first-team All-American and a finalist for the Wooden Award. His explosive offensive outbursts were the product of him lingering around the basket and gobbling up whatever came near him. He pounded the glass and served as a reliable safety net, catching dump-off passes and lobs whenever a ball handler got into the paint.

Bagley was unstoppable on the left side of the floor and also displayed the foundation of a jump shot that could be reliable if he puts in the time. Sacramento doesn’t have a dynamic presence in the frontcourt. Both Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere are limited offensively. 

Something that’s been talked about ad nauseum with Bagley is how he’s positionally challenged. He’s neither a center nor a forward. At Duke, he spent most of his time at the four while Wendell Carter occupied the paint. The Kings could do something similar with Bagley and Cauley-Stein. Bagley, the offensive-minded piece of the duo, could involve himself in the post and also the pick-and-roll with Fox. Doncic would fit fine as well, but perhaps Sacramento feels it’s not worth expending energy on someone who already is wary of the situation.

Marvin Bagley is an outstanding prospect, as is Luka Doncic. The deciding factor, however, comes down to chemistry. Bagley wants to play for the team. Nobody else does, apparently. The Kings are better off picking someone with whom they’ve formed a bond because he’s more willing to wade through the bullshit as the franchise figures itself out. From the outside, it’s a bizarre feeling from Bagley, but, in the end, he wants to go as high as possible because of everything that comes along with it.

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